The Catholic Pauls, it seems clear to me, oppose ethical egoism in strong terms. Interestingly, however, they do not spend much time attacking it; instead, they attack a kind of altruism that is very different from their own. And their positions interest me greatly because of the way it highlights differences among philosophical concepts of altruism.
Ethical egoism of some description – say, as advocated by Epicurus – is a perfectly respectable philosophical position. One can say that one’s reasons to benefit others are all ultimately based on benefit to oneself, if one’s own self-interest is rightly understood. Neither Paul has a great deal of sympathy for this position, as far as I can tell, but it is not what they take as a target for their attack.
Rather, they reserve their greatest ire for a position that derives other-orientation from ātmanism – or at least from nondualism. Continue reading